This is your Good News round-up:
We bring you news of a project harnessing rainfall to provide a reliable water source for schools in Venezuela; news that if you want to start exercising more, you may simply need a more active friend; Zimbabwe’s key move to fight AIDs; confirmation from Apple that it will abandon its lightning port in order to make the USB Type-C cables standard; and a US study showing that video gaming may be associated with better cognitive performance in children.
Watch the video above for more on each story, or read on!
1. A rainwater revolution in Venezuela
Many people in Venezuela struggle to get a reliable water supply because of recurrent problems with the networks operated by state-owned companies.
At Unidad Educativa Nuestra Señora del Encuentro, a school in Petare, one of Venezuela's largest poor neighbourhoods, the supply of water was so precarious that students had to bring water from home to drink and wash their hands during the day.
But then Laurencio Sánchez, a Venezuelan architect, designed the Lata de Agua [Can of Water] a system, which captures and filters rainfall for use in schools to bring a constant flow of clean water to communities.
“It is a sustainable, alternative, complementary water-supply model based on the collection, storage and treatment of rainwater in vulnerable communities and their institutions," explains Sánchez.
“The model offers, at the local level, a unique possibility of obtaining abundant and high-quality water for at least six months of the year in these communities, not only in vulnerable communities but in all places that suffer from water scarcity."
Lata de Agua started operating back in 2019 in three schools and one outpatient clinic.
At the Fermín Toro school in Petare, it has changed the lives of the students and their teachers.
Dayani Echezuría, the school’s headmistress, says the institutions would sometimes go from three to eight months without water, but since the Lata de Agua project has been installed, they have had a constant flow.
“We no longer suspend school activities; we work our daily workday. The benefit has been enormous for the school," she says.
At the Unidad Educativa Nuestra Señora del Encuentro, another Petare school, the rainwater is used to irrigate a vegetable patch, which helps to feed its 850 students.
Before the arrival of the project, the crops would dry up. “We planted maize, and there was not enough water because, due to the difficulties of the sector and the reality we lived in, we had to ration. We had to choose between the kitchen, the bathrooms, the toilet and the vegetable patch,” says headmistress María Inés Guerrero.
"But thanks to this [the Lata de Agua systems] we can sow better, have higher yields and thus achieve better nutrition."
2. If you want to start exercising more, you may simply need a more active friend
A group of researchers have developed a mathematical model that says active friends are a critical factor in increasing our physical activity.
The investigators were curious to know why Americans still do not appear to be meeting the recommended amount of weekly exercise, despite the widely known health benefits.
They have found a complete absence of social influence results in long-term sedentary behaviour and even a decline in physically active populations.
Social interactions between sedentary and moderately active groups were the most important factor encouraging relatively inactive people to become physically active and to stay that way.
On the other hand, social interactions encouraging moderately active individuals to become sedentary often put an end to exercise routines altogether.
The good news for you is that to get back on the running machine you might just need a more active friend. This news may also provide a new way for governments and organisations to boost public health programmes by focusing on community activities.
3. Zimbabwe’s key move to fight AIDs
Zimbabwe has become the first country in Africa and the third in the world – after Australia and the US – to approve an HIV prevention drug called CAB-LA, recently recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO) as a safe & highly effective prevention option for people at high risk of HIV.
In African countries, people most at risk of HIV include sex workers and LGBTQ+ communities, who are sidelined from access to healthcare because of laws and societal segregation.
Research has revealed that CAB-LA injections every two months are highly effective in reducing the risk of contracting HIV.
In controlled trials, the use of CAB-LA resulted in a 79 per cent relative reduction in HIV risk compared with oral PrEP, another preventive medication that needs to be taken daily – something that often poses a challenge.
Zimbabwe has launched a major battle against HIV, launching an ambitious plan to end AIDS by 2030. And they have made impressive progress in reaching a target known as 90-90-90 – 90 per cent of people living with HIV knowing their status; 90 per cent getting antiretroviral treatment, and 90 per cent having the virus suppressed, according to the country’s National AIDS Council (NAC).
Zimbabweans have already seen AIDS-related deaths fall from an estimated 130,000 in 2002 to 20,000 in 2021.
4. Confirmation from Apple that it will abandon its lightning port in order to make the USB Type-C cables standard
A few episodes back, the Good News round-up covered the environmental deal by the EU to impose a one-type-fits-all standard port for smartphones, tablets and laptops sold in the bloc by the end of 2024.
A win-win for reducing both frustration and eWaste – electronic waste, which is the fastest-growing waste stream in the developed world.
Resistance had mostly been from Apple, who were the most affected by the move. They had said uniform chargers would stifle innovation.
The good news update on that story is that Apple has confirmed that it will abandon its lightning port in the future and switch the iPhone to USB Type-C to meet European standards.
“We have no choice – as we do around the world, [Apple will] comply with local laws,” said Apple’s senior vice president of worldwide marketing, Greg Joswiak, speaking at the Wall Street Journal Tech Live Conference in California.
5. Video gaming may be associated with better cognitive performance in children.
Numerous studies have previously linked video gaming to behaviour and mental health problems. But a new study of nearly 2,000 children suggests that cognitive benefits may also be associated with gaming.
Researchers have found that children who play video games for three or more hours per day perform better on cognitive skills, such as impulse control and working memory, than those who do not or have never played.
Scientists at the University of Vermont, Burlington separated the 2000 children into two groups, one for those who did not play, and those who reported playing video games for three hours per day or more in another.
A threshold that exceeds the American Academy of Pediatrics screen time guidelines(link is external)
The researchers also say that while previous studies reported associations between video gaming and increases in depression, violence, and aggressive behaviour, they did not find that to be the case, and that this association was not statistically significant.
They insist their study does not allow for cause and effect, meaning it could just be that children who are good at these types of cognitive tasks may choose to play video games. But they point out that further research is needed because the neurobiological mechanisms are not yet fully understood.
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And remember, it can be hard to find among the headlines, but some news can be good news.